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NC Collegians Debt-Free By 2020? Campaign Kicks Off Today

Photo: NC Student Power Union continues to host efforts state wide to demand a debt-free college system by 2020. Courtesy: NC Student Power Union
Photo: NC Student Power Union continues to host efforts state wide to demand a debt-free college system by 2020. Courtesy: NC Student Power Union
April 11, 2014

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Today dozens of North Carolina college students will attend the Board of Governors meeting at UNC Chapel Hill to demand a debt free system from the state's public universities by 2020.

With the College Board estimating state tuition prices will rise by 40 percent in the next five years, Matt Hickson, organizing director of the NC Student Power Union, the group behind the effort, says enough is enough.

"We know right now that one of the reasons why costs are increasing so fast and students are being forced to take so much debt is because no one is listening to us, and we're saying that we can't afford any more," he stresses.

Hickson points to Oregon as proof that his group's goal is possible.

Last year Oregon authorized free tuition at its in-state schools. In exchange, graduates will pay back 3 percent of their income for 24 years after graduation, therefore eliminating the need for loans and the interest associated with them.

According to a survey by Experience Incorporated, a career services company, about half of students questioned say their debt limits their career choices, which Hickson believes contradicts what they're taught earlier in life.

"When young people are told over and over again in their life that they should pursue a career that they have passion for, that they should pursue a career that will help change the world, to say all those things to them, and then strap them with so much debt that their career choices are being limited, is to me, not economically OK," he points out.

Almost 60 percent of college students graduate with debt, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Reporting for this story by North Carolina News Connection in association with Media in the Public Interest. Media in the Public Interest is funded in part by Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation.

Stephanie Carson/Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - NC